The Effects of Prolonged Exposure

It’s occurred to me that I have now been taking female hormones and androgen blockers for approximately six months (when one factors-in the hiatuses imposed by lack of funds in July and lack of scrip in September); for the past half a year, I have been biochemically female.

So what, dare I ask, has actually changed for me? All stereotypes aside, what difference has this hormonal change actually made?

Understand, I’m not really talking about physical changes, as such, although those have been proceeding apace as well (suffice it so say, I now look mostly androgynous, even when deliberately trying to appear male. Also, my hair is apparently turning red, which is probably the biggest surprise of the whole transition); rather, I am talking about changes in emotion and personality. People forever assume that there is some sort of yawning gulf in between masculinity and femininity; that, owing to the specifics of each sex’s biology (read: hormones), males and females are cursed to forever see the world in different ways. Now, of course, I have never actually felt like a man; but I feel that I am in a unique position to comment on just how real this difference actually is, as someone who has had the rare opportunity to see the world through both male and female hormonal hazes.

So: how much difference is there, physiologically, between male and female perspectives? In my experience, the answer is: Not a whole hell of a lot, apparently.

Now, as a caveat, I should remind readers that I may not be the most representative individual when it comes to such things. I am, of course, asexual, and I don’t think that most people realize just how profoundly their emotions are tied-up with their sexual desire. If we accept this to be the case, and assume (not unreasonably, I think) that the primary mechanism through which sex hormones affect psychology is by altering the sex drive, this could go a long way towards explaining why I have not felt anything; any number multiplied by zero equals zero.

The two greatest emotions that I have felt since beginning the therapy have been periods of euphoria and despair; however, I feel that neither of these emotional states were directly caused by the consumption of female hormones. I have felt euphoria as a result of the fact that, for the first time, I actually feel as if I am becoming myself; my despair, on the other hand, had much more to do with the fact that I have just spent a year writing a thesis in a windowless basement, with no clear conception of what I was going to do afterwards. The nadir of my depression (in early November) was not caused by progesterone; it was caused by the fact that I had just broken-up with my girlfriend of four years. The hormones themselves may have exacerbated either of these emotions, but they did not cause them.

Another effect that I have noticed is that, what emotions I do feel, I seem to be feeling with greater ‘subtlety’ than I have before; that is to say, I feel that I have spent my entire life watching my life in black and white, whereas now I feel that I am living in full, vivid colour. This may be a result of the hormones, but I think it far more likely that this is, once again, because of the fact that I feel like I am finally living my own life rather than someone else’s. Corroborating this position is the fact that transsexual men have told me the same thing about their emotional states.

The third notable effect has been emotional stability…or lack thereof. Now, this almost certainly is caused by hormones, but I think that it is probably caused more by the change than by the hormones themselves; I say this because I am essentially going through puberty again right now, and, while this time I am doing so as a female, the first time I went through puberty it was as a male, and I was similarly emotionally unstable at that time. Moreover, I have noticed that as my body gradually acclimatized itself to the new regime, my emotional stability is gradually returning.

There is, however, one change for which I lack a non-hormonal explanation: namely, I now find myself experiencing multiple emotional states at the same time–a feat of which I was previously incapable.

Bear in mind, of course, that these are (once again) only my personal experiences. However, from where I am standing, it seems very much as if the much vaunted irreconcilable differences between the sexes are overwhelmingly a bunch of hooey.

About thevenerablecorvex

I have the heart of a poet, the brain of a theoretical physicist, and the wingspan of an albatross. I am also notable for my humility.
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2 Responses to The Effects of Prolonged Exposure

  1. Lindsay says:

    That’s really interesting, thanks for writing about it!

    One thing I (think I) remember another trans woman saying was that she cried more easily after she’d been taking estrogen for a while? Do you find that to be the case with you?

    That’s interesting about the multiple emotional states at once … I do not know the physiology of that, but I do know of one autistic cis woman who has said she can’t experience that either. (It’s Temple Grandin). I don’t know if I can experience multiple emotional states at once … I kind of suspect no.

    I also know that my emotional sensitivity has become greater with age, like particularly so between late adolescence and early adulthood. So besides the hormonal variable, it’s also worth remembering that your brain isn’t quite done becoming what it will be, either. (Plus the whole business about being autistic … little is known about how we develop, since people have gotten it in their heads that we just *don’t*)

    It also makes total sense that you’d feel … whatever a one-word label for that feeling of living in color where you had been stuck in black and white … just because you’re finally able to be yourself.

    Probably the most surprising factoid, to me, is the reddening of your hair! I would never’ve guessed that would happen.

    • “One thing I (think I) remember another trans woman saying was that she cried more easily after she’d been taking estrogen for a while? Do you find that to be the case with you?”
      Yes, although I chalk that off to the previously mentioned emotional instability. It also seems possible (from my own uneducated perspective) that the hormones may be directly affecting my tear ducts themselves.
      “That’s interesting about the multiple emotional states at once … I do not know the physiology of that, but I do know of one autistic cis woman who has said she can’t experience that either. (It’s Temple Grandin). I don’t know if I can experience multiple emotional states at once … I kind of suspect no.”
      I can’t do it very often. I just happened to notice at one point a few months ago that I was simultaneously feeling both happy and sad, which seemed a wholly novel experience.
      “Probably the most surprising factoid, to me, is the reddening of your hair! ”
      Hormones, of course, affect gene expression, and my grandfather was red-headed. Apparently, this latent tendency has been somehow unlocked in me.

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